August 9, 2023

Game Preview | WPG at EDM

Scene setter:

It certainly looks like a mismatch on paper – a massive mismatch – but the Blue Bombers are doing and saying all the right things leading into Thursday’s game against the winless Elks. As head coach Mike O’Shea said earlier in the week “The numbers beside your team name (records) mean nothing.”

Still… the Elks have lost a record-setting 21 consecutive home games and will start Canadian Tre Ford at QB on Thursday in what will be just the fourth start of his career. The Blue Bombers, meanwhile, are coming off a 50-14 win over the B.C. Lions and want to keep their foot jammed down on the gas pedal through this trip to the Alberta capital.

The Basics

Kickoff: Thursday, 8 p.m. CDT; Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium
TV: TSN; CBS Sports Network
U.S. and International live streaming:
Radio: 680 CJOB
Last meeting: July 20, 2023, at IG Field: Winnipeg 28 Edmonton 14.
PlayNow odds: The Blue Bombers are favoured by 12 points. For more betting options, click here.

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The QBs

  • Winnipeg lines up Zach Collaros behind centre. He is 67-38 in his career and a stellar 39-7 in his games as a starter in Winnipeg, including playoffs and two Grey Cup victories. Collaros is 10-6 all-time in games against Edmonton.
  • Edmonton will start Canadian Tre Ford at QB. This will be his first start of 2023 and the fourth of his career. His first start came in a Week 4 win over Hamilton last summer in which he threw for 159 yards and one TD and in his second start, against Calgary, he suffered a shoulder injury. His last start came in an October loss to B.C. in which he threw for 242 yards and one TD while rushing for 72 yards.

The Coaches

  • Winnipeg: Mike O’Shea has a career won-lost record of 88-60. O’Shea’s 88 wins as a Blue Bombers head coach now ranks him second all-time in franchise history behind only Grant (102).
  • Edmonton: Chris Jones is in his second stint in Edmonton and now has a 57-59 career won-lost record. He is 4-22 in his second go-round with the franchise.

Blue Bomber Roster Notes

  • The Blue Bombers have not made a single change to the roster this week, a rarity for any squad in the CFL.
  • The club welcomed back veteran defenders Kyrie Wilson and Winston Rose last week and the injury report over the last few days has only listed DB Jamal Parker with a non-injury related issue. Parker remains on the one-game injured list.
  • The six-game injured list still features LBs Malik Clements, Shayne Gauthier and Jared Beeksma, FB Mike Miller, DEs Thiadric Hansen and Celestin Haba, KR/WR Janarion Grant and CB Desmond Lawrence. Lawrence, it’s worth noting, is the only one of that crew who has returned to practice, as he did this week.

Blue Bomber Spotlight: Willie Jefferson, DE

The Blue Bombers’ wrecking ball defensive end is second to B.C.’s Mathieu Betts in sacks with eight (Betts has 10) and that total already eclipses the seven QB takedowns he had in 2021 and 2022. Jefferson now has 34 sacks as a Blue Bomber, which has him rocketing up the club’s all-time list.

Tyrone Jones, FYI, is the all-time Blue Bombers leader in sacks with 98; next up for Jefferson to catch is James West, who had 37. Jefferson & Co. will be facing Ford, who can be slippery when outside of the pocket. Asked for a scouting report on Ford, Jefferson offered this:

“Fast guy, young guy, still trying to find his way in the CFL, still trying to make a name for himself.

“We know what kind of player he is because he had the offseason to get better, as he should. We know for a fact that he is a running quarterback, he likes to have the ball in his hands, he likes to be in open space, he can make you miss, he’s an RPO (run/pass option) kinda guy and he’s got a tall offensive line so he can’t really see over the offensive line.

“He obviously wants to come in and make a spark for that team. But going against our defence with me, Jackson (Jeffcoat), Bigs (Adam Bighill), BA (Brandon Alexander), the guys in the back end talking to him, trying to make it hard for him… he’s going to have a long game.”

Scouting the Elks

The Elks are coming off a bye week that was preceded by a 27-0 loss to the Lions. That loss led to some changes over their break, with Jarious Jackson being elevated from QB coach to offensive coordinator. Jackson replaces Stephen McAdoo, who had been reassigned to the defensive side of the ball.

One of Jackson’s first decisions was to elevate Ford to QB1, with Jarret Doege moving to back up and Taylor Cornelius – who had started seven games this year (with Doege getting the other) – moved to third string.

The Elks have scored just 105 points this year and are averaging just 12.4 points per game – including being shut out TWICE by the Lions. Edmonton ranks last in net offence (290.3) and seventh in rushing (79.6) and passing (229.6). Star receiver Geno Lewis, signed in free agency in the offseason after a stellar season in Montreal, remains on the six-game injured list.

Interestingly, of the five longest receptions this year in the CFL, three are held by Elks pass catchers – Lewis has the longest at 102 yards, Vincent Forbes-Mombleau is third at 84 yards while Dillon Mitchell comes in at four with an 80-yard reception.

Edmonton’s defence has allowed an average of 26.5 points per game, ahead of only Hamilton (28.0).


Zach Collaros (118.4) and Toronto’s Chad Kelly (113.1) are the only two CFL QBs with efficiency ratings over 100. Collaros also leads the CFL in passing yardage (2,292) and passing TDs (16).

Just to put Collaros’ efficiency rating into perspective, the Blue Bombers club record is 118.2 and was set by Ken Ploen in 1962. Ploen’s number ranks fourth all time behind Ricky Ray (126.4 in 2013 with Toronto), Nathan Rourke (123.6 in 2022 with B.C.) and Dave Dickenson (118.8, set in 2005 with Calgary).

Collaros’ efficiency rating a year ago was 116.2 and ranks fifth all-time.


The Blue Bombers have won eight straight against Edmonton dating to November 3, 2018 – a game in which several starters were rested for the playoffs. Winnipeg is 9-1 in its last 10 vs. Edmonton.


“I look at the player. We look at the people. They play hard. Those guys, like every team we play, is going to give us their best effort. If you look only at their record, it won’t serve you any justice because every team is out to get the giant. We want to capitalize on what we did last week. It’s a new week and another opportunity to put some more points on the board and go have fun with each other.” – Rasheed Bailey on facing the winless Elks.